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Landmark Marriage Equality Bill Filed in Delaware

Wilmington – Today Rep. Melanie George Smith and Sen. David Sokola, along with co-prime sponsors Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf, House Majority Leader Rep. Valerie Longhurst, and Senate President Pro Tem Patricia Blevins, filed an historic civil marriage bill, paving the way for Delaware to become the 10th state where loving and committed gay and lesbian couples can marry. Governor Jack Markell has vowed to sign the bill into law.

“This is an historic day for equality in Delaware,” said Lisa Goodman, President of Equality Delaware. “We're thrilled to have a bill that reflects the values of our state and are grateful for the steadfast leadership of the bill sponsors and Governor Markell on marriage equality. There is tremendous momentum for marriage equality in our state because a majority of Delawareans support the freedom to marry. All Delawareans should be able to marry the person they love."

The bill establishes civil marriage equality by extending the freedom to marry to same-sex couples and ensuring that same-sex married couples have the same protections and obligations as opposite-sex married couples. Same-sex couples will be able to apply for marriage licenses from the clerks of the peace.

The bill establishes procedures for the conversion of existing civil unions to marriages, and explicitly protects religious freedom. The bill states that no clergyperson or minister of any religious denomination will ever be required to perform any marriage, including a same-sex marriage, that does not conform to his or her religious beliefs. It also explicitly protects the freedoms of religion and speech of all persons as guaranteed under the United States and Delaware Constitutions.

Recent polling indicates that a strong majority of Delaware voters – 54 percent – support the freedom to marry.

Equality Delaware, the lead organization advocating for passage of the bill, has built a broad-based coalition to advocate for the bill. The organization has earned support from faith leaders such as Episcopal Bishop Wayne Wright and Dr. Donald Morton, organizations like the Delaware NAACP and the state’s four leading labor unions, and businesses like DuPont. Equality Delaware has also launched a robust organizing program, which has already mobilized thousands of Delawareans to volunteer and contact their state legislators.

Press contact: Lisa Goodman, 302-743-7777 and Kevin Nix at 202-431-5796

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